The Town of Smithtown hosted a special Light the Town Blue ceremony Monday evening, in front of Town Hall. Long Island Autism Speaks advocate Kathleen Lanese, alongside her husband Rick Lanese and sons, Kevin and Brendan lead the ceremonial lighting of the tree, with members of the Town Council, Parks & Highway departments. Brendan Lanese gave the inaugural speech prior to the commemorative lighting. After the ceremony all in attendance were given blue light bulbs to place in home porch lights to kick off of Autism Awareness month.
“I am so humbled to hear a young and talented man like Brendan speak in front an audience like he has this evening. Imagine being non-verbal as a little boy… Now he does public speaking better than I do! And I believe he has great accomplishments ahead… maybe even being the Town Supervisor one day. Whether we work harder to hire bright young men like Brendan and one day Kevin… Or make a commitment today, to better understand spectrum disorders, to show compassion and most of all, acceptance to those young and old, learning how to communicate with us every day.” - Supervisor Ed Wehrheim
“Autism affects individuals in different ways. I’m going to college and working part time but my brother is much more affected and requires constant supervision. Sometimes people with Autism can behave differently because they are frustrated, afraid or unable to communicate and this can be difficult to deal with in public. This is why public awareness is so important. People with Autism are just like everyone else, and should be welcome despite behaving and looking differently.“ - Brendan Lanese
Brendan Lanese was non verbal at age two. His parents helped him to receive special education services at that time. When Brendan was four he was diagnosed with autism. He will be turning 21 this Summer. In 2016, Brendan graduated from Kings Park High School with a Regents Diploma and a member of the National Honor Society. He continues his education at Suffolk Community College and works at Spectrum Designs Foundation.
“As Brendan mentioned it means the world to families like ours when we see blue lights in porch lights and landmarks like this and all around town, it makes us feel less alone in the world. But we still have a ways to go in informing and teaching the rest of the world to be accepting. What you all here are doing just by being here, by spreading the word, by lighting your homes blue, you are all making difference and helping to make people like my boys to be accepted wherever they go.” - Kathleen Lanese, Autism Speaks Long Island Advocate
For the duration of April, giant puzzle pieces, Light bulb shapes and blue lights embellish major landmarks throughout Smithtown, including Whisper the Bull, Town Hall, the Smithtown Parks and Highway Department Grounds. Councilman Tom Lohmann and Parks Director, Joe Arico helped to revive the tradition which began for the first time in April 2015. Councilman Tom Lohmann will be distributing blue light bulbs to residents on a first come first serve basis, out of his office for the month of April.